Sunday, September 15, 2013

Catfish Corner opens doors at Dyersburg Regional Airport (KDYR), Tennessee

In October 1996, life was good for the McDonald family. The proud owners of Catfish Corner on Upper Finley Road, the McDonald family was realizing its lifelong dream of a log-cabin catfish restaurant. Everyone in the family had a role with Art McDonald Sr. serving and attending to the people while his wife, Carolyn, cooked in the kitchen and created each of the home-style recipes their restaurant became well-known for in the community. Their son, Art McDonald Jr., joined his parents from St. Louis, Mo. to help his parents realize their dream and supported the family business however he could.

"This is all my dad has wanted to do," said McDonald Jr. "His dream was to have a log-cabin catfish place like 'Hyde's Catfish Park.'"

However in October 1996, the dream would come to an abrupt halt, as a cigarette that wasn't properly extinguished in the women's restroom would start a fire that would permanently close the establishment. Heartbroken, the elder McDonalds went on to other projects while McDonald Jr. pursued a career in law enforcement, first with the Dyersburg Police Department then with the city of Caruthersville and eventually returning to his native St. Louis. The dream of starting another restaurant was never far from McDonald Jr.'s mind, and when the opportunity opened up to reopen Catfish Corner at the Dyersburg Regional Airport, he jumped at the chance.

The McDonalds were awarded the restaurant in June 2013 after the Dyersburg Airport Committee recommended to the full board to grant Catfish Corner a lease. McDonald Jr., who was filled with emotion at the meeting, has not looked back since, working feverishly all summer to open the establishment by an Aug. 1 start date. Although Catfish Corner enjoyed a large customer base in the 1990s, McDonald Jr. did not know what to expect the second time around. The response has been overwhelming.

"We have done overwhelmingly well since we opened," said McDonald Jr. "We have been extremely blessed since we opened our doors in mid-August."

McDonald Jr. shared that it is a great joy to see the parking lot start filling in the late afternoon as customers come in prepared to sample the meal of the day. The establishment has a buffet-style menu with catfish always an option on the menu, but it changes out different vegetables and other meats throughout the week. The restaurant also offers a variety of cobbler desserts and the option for filets cooked to your liking for an additional fee. The menu also includes chicken and dumplings and chicken liver.

In addition, patrons can expect to receive the same friendly reception at Catfish Corner's new location as they did at the Upper Finley Road location.

"We want you to come and sit down and enjoy yourself for an hour, two hours or all night," said McDonald Jr. "You will never be rushed and you will always be treated like family.

"If you have a bad experience we just ask that you give us the chance to make it right," he added.

The McDonald family is excited to not only be at their new location, in which they have invested extensive renovations, but also to be a part of the community. McDonald Jr. says he looks forward to hosting fundraisers and sponsoring school events. He also took the opportunity to commend the city for its partnership with his family.

"The city of Dyersburg has been outstanding to us," said McDonald Jr. "Anything to help us improve the building they have done."

McDonald has a vision to expand the facility not just in physical space but also in hours of operation. Currently the restaurant is only open in the evenings for supper and can only accommodate approximately 100 patrons at a time. However, residents have been eagerly asking when the restaurant will be opening for lunch. The requests have been so many that McDonald Jr. has shifted his priority to exploring a lunch menu. He says that the restaurant will begin a lunch operation soon as he diligently is working to hire a lunch crew and establishing a lunch menu.

"We just have been so blessed," said McDonald Jr. "We hope that everyone will come and enjoy a meal with us. We expect everyone to come in, be comfortable and enjoy themselves. When you are here, you are our family."

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